Fears of Violence in Mixed Areas as Jewish, Muslim Holidays May Collide in Once in 30 Years Occurrence
In the wake of a summer wracked by Arab-Jewish violence within Israel, in Gaza, and in the West Bank, security and local authorities in mixed Jewish Arab areas are bracing for a potential “perfect storm”: the solemn Jewish Yom Kippur fast and the festive Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday – falling on the same day, Israel’s Walla News reported Sunday.
While leaders in mixed-populace cities like Jerusalem, Jaffa, Acco, Ramle, Haifa, Nazareth and elsewhere are trying to convey a message of reconciliation, the fact the two observances have such different characteristics makes that difficult: Yom Kippur involves 24-hours of fasting, prayer and introspection, while Eid al-Adha is a family celebration in which lambs are routinely publicly slaughtered for a feast.
The confluence occurs once every 30 years, and may occur again this year, on Saturday, Oct. 4. While both religions base timekeeping on a lunar calendar, Jewish law stipulates the day and length of the fast to the minute, while Muslim religious leaders can decide on the exact date of the holidays based on the appearance of the moon, giving them some leeway.
The last three months have seen the kidnapping and killing of three Jewish teens, the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian youth in revenge, the 50-day Operation Protective Edge in Gaza and anti-Jewish rioting by Arabs in Jerusalem, so there are no shortage of precedents for violence.
In Acco, as well as Ramle and Jaffa, special meetings were recently held between the city’s religious leaders in order to work out how to deal with the anticipated proximity of dates; each side is expected to ask its community to exercise restraint and respect the other side’s public spaces.
Acco is preparing to close the city to vehicular traffic and permit only pedestrian entrance, and Jaffa Muslim leaders agreed to a request to move a parade that was supposed to take place on Yom Kippur morning to after sunset, when the Jewish fast ends.
“We’ve already initiated three meetings with religious leaders, educators, community and security officials,” said Acco Mayor Shimon Lankri.
“If [public disturbances] occur, we – through the major forces that will be deployed here, and discretionary measures, whether implemented by police or local authorities – will deal with each case individually.”
Ramle Mayor Yoel Lavi, said that the municipality would work to increase awareness of the possibility that both holidays could fall on the same date.
“On the one hand, Jews will be fasting, and on the other hand, the Muslims will be celebrating,” he said, adding that he hoped that “raising awareness, as well as requesting discreet behavior on both sides – both by Yoel, as well as by Ahmed – will avert tragic events,” Lavi said.